Makers Market Meet The Artist: Marja Germans

Here at Makers Market our mission is to Rebuild the Legacy of American Made, reconnecting consumers with the origin of their products and the people that make them is our number one priority. We think that when people know what the things they buy are made of, who makes them and where, it not only transforms a “thing” into a treasure, it helps to support local economies and promote sustainable buying practices.

We opened our new store location at Santana Row in April, and it has been a pretty wonderful experience ever since. Santana Row is a beautiful outdoor shopping mall full of hidden corners, delicious food, and well-groomed greenery. When Santana Row allowed us to start hosting “Makers Market in the Park” once a month, we were thrilled for the opportunity to connect consumers to makers on a personal level. Who better to inform a buyer about a product than the actual people that designed and crafted it with their own hands??

We held our first Makers Market in the Park on June 11th, where 22 local artisans sold their beautiful work, and chatted with customers as beautiful acoustic music courtesy of local musician Lucas Gordon drifted through the air. Inside our store, directly across the park, Scheid Vineyards provided complimentary wine tasting and Santana Row restaurants Straits, Sino and Roots+Rye provided appetizers for shoppers to snack on. This event was truly a community effort and a reflection of the ideals of our store. Communities with a support system can create truly amazing things!

June’s market featured a curated batch of products including art prints from Kristina Micotti Illustration, Jewelry from Corey Egan Metalsmithing, and wood items from Jo’s Woodturning. We are so excited to offer a regular venue in the South Bay where conscientious shoppers can connect with a curated batch of sustainable-minded artisans and makers! The market favorite in the month of June was psychologist-turned- Jeweler Marja Germans Gard and her two jewelry lines, Lemonade Handmade and namesake line Marja Germans Gard Studio. Read on to discover where the artist finds her inspiration, how she converted from academia, and why people love her jewelry so much! (Hint: she environmentally conscious and her lines have a striking simplicity that is really easy to wear day or night!)

What inspired you to start your own business?

Frankly, I never actually ever made a conscious choice to start my own business- I was pursuing something that I loved and kind of fell into the business aspect of things! The story starts after I completed my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.  I had revisited my childhood hobby of jewelry making while in my Ph.D. program as a stress release while working on my dissertation, but had never considered it as a career because I thought I was destined to be an academic.  After completing my degree, I was at a birthday party for my daughter's schoolmate and saw a friend of mine with a lovely necklace.  I thought to myself- "I could make that!" and determined to give it a whirl.  Another friend at the event encouraged me to have a "jewelry party" at my house- so I did. I made as much jewelry as I could, invited everyone I knew, and sold almost everything. It was after that that I hatched the idea that I might be able to make a living doing this thing I had loved since childhood, and lemonade handmade jewelry (and later Marja Germans Gard Studio) evolved from there.

What is the inspiration behind your designs?

The inspiration differs a bit between the two lines.  For lemonade handmade jewelry, I'm looking to design pieces that are delicate, but still maintain clean lines and a streamlined feel.  These pieces are meant to go with everything and be worn every single day- all the pieces match well with one another and there is something for everyone, from a modern, rectangular take on the silver hoop to the sweet stack of 14K gold fill rings.

For Marja Germans Gard Studio, the inspiration is still modern design and clean lines, but taken in a bolder, geometric and more architectural direction. My goal with this line is to create an appealing tension in the pieces, whether by balancing edginess with femininity, mixing metals and techniques, or pairing rustic metals like bronze with fine accents like black diamonds.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

I will always love sterling silver- I find it a delight to actually work with at the bench. I am also using bronze more and more- it's a tougher metal to work with, but I just can't seem to let it go.  My most recent passion is 14K gold- keep an eye out for more of that in upcoming designs.

What do you like to do when you are not making/designing?

I love to spend time with my two kids and my husband- especially discovering new places to hike (and to eat! I feel so lucky that they are adventurous eaters). I also love to take hip-hop class- I was in a dance company back in college and sweating it out to some Missy Elliot or Kelis is still the perfect stress release for me.

Where did you learn your craft?

I've taken a number of classes at The Crucible and at Revere Academy in SF, but a lot of what I do is self-taught.

What is your process when starting a new design?

I typically get fixated with a motif of some kind- a linear intersection, or the way two shapes play off of each other.  I sketch for a while as a way to figure out what's appealing to me about the motif, and then I start considering how it might be applied to jewelry- what would it look like as a pair of earrings, how could I incorporate it into a necklace? After I've been sketching for a while, it's time to play at the bench and try different things out- sometimes I end up way far away from where I thought I was going!

What do you appreciate about handmade goods?

I love the little imperfections that are reminders that this object is the product of someone's ideas and passion. It's great to be able to see the mark of the artist on a piece and know that she or he hatched this notion out of thin air and made it something physical.  I love living in an area and in a time where handmade is so valued, and where makers (and retailers!) can form a community that inspires and encourages other makers.

If people could know one thing about you/ your work, what would it be?

That I love making it and I am so thrilled to share it with others. When someone finds a piece of mine that they just love- it's incredibly rewarding- I've made them happy by making it and they have made me so happy by appreciating it.

What is the inspiration behind your brand name?

At the time that I first started lemonade handmade, I was obsessed with anything lemon and was cooking and baking with lemons all the time. It seemed only fitting that I would incorporate lemon in the name for my other obsession- making jewelry.  For the Marja Germans Gard Studio line, when I started it I wanted to distinguish it from lemonade handmade as much as possible, since the lines are so different for me.  A number of my friends and colleagues encouraged me to use my unusual name to mark this line as a reflection of me.

How long have you been making things?

All. My. Life.  As a kid I took every art class that was thrown my way. I took stained glass, enameling, ceramics, pottery, weaving, knitting, drawing and painting- anything and everything.  As I got older, my creative energies focused more on dance, and I choreographed for performances for years. Ultimately I returned to jewelry as my creative outlet in graduate school, and the rest is history.


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